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ASU officials mull budget cuts

Article Published: May. 27, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Appalachian State University had representatives among the University of North Carolina system officials who participated in a "UNC Legislative Day" Tuesday.

University officials met with General Assembly delegates to discuss budget cuts in the year ahead, with the threat of not only additional cuts for the coming fiscal year, but tough years looming in the subsequent two-year budget cycle as well.

Sandie Gravett, an ASU professor who was part of the faculty group, issued an update to ASU officials in an email warning of $139 million potential cut on top of a $50.6 million cut already adopted last year.

Still, the total education cuts, including for the public school system, are a work in progress, with a N.C. House of Representatives subcommittee proposing a 3.3 percent cut, or $360.5 million, Wednesday. The N.C. Senate's proposed budget has a $158.6 million cut, while Gov. Beverly Perdue's recommended budget has a total education cut of $239.8 million.

"Although full funding is provided for enrollment growth ($5.6 million), only $12 million is made available in response to the board's $34.8 million request for need-based financial aid," Gravett said. "Financial aid was fully funded in both the Governor's budget (recurring) and the Senate's budget (nonrecurring). No funding is provided for operating facilities scheduled to come on line during the year."

The House subcommittee also wants nearly $35 million in tuition increases to go to the state's general fund, though the Senate and Perdue want them to remain on campus for financial aid.

The UNC system is also mulling a furlough system rather than job cuts if the budget leads to a reduction in positions and classes. Individual universities may get the authority to issue the furloughs, which are essentially unpaid days off that would help ease the budget strain. The N.C. Senate favors the furlough system.

"The furlough issue is one that will likely come through in some form," Gravett reported. "But the real work here is to be done on campus with our chancellors and chief academic officers. It looks like the authority will be local and that if campuses can come up with the cuts they need short of furloughs, they will not happen."

ASU officials and other university advocates have been urging people to contact their General Assembly representatives and support increased funding.

With tens of millions of dollars in differences between the various General Assembly plans, budget negotiations will likely be hammered out by joint committees.

The budget for the next two-year cycle could be even more of a challenge, as a 1-cent sales tax is set to expire, and federal stimulus funds won't be available to plug the gaps. Together, those sources propped up the state budget with about $2.8 billion in revenue.

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